Rare Dr. Seuss Manuscript Up For Auction

Online bidders are vying for an unpublished manuscript by the late Dr. Seuss. The 19-page manuscript is called "All Sorts of Sports," and follows Pete who tries 100 sports. Auction house owner Nate D. Sanders talks to Renee Montagne about the manuscript.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

In this part of the program we're going to hear about all sorts of sports.

STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

Shall I play checkers? Golf? Croquet? There are so many games, there are, to play.

MONTAGNE: Sports as rendered by Dr. Seuss. Hints of "Cat in the Hat" can be found in an unfinished and unpublished manuscript from 1969 that's now up for auction online

Joining us from Nate D. Sanders Auctions in Los Angeles is Nate D. Sanders.

Welcome.

NATE D: Thank you for having me.

MONTAGNE: So tell us something about this manuscript. Unpublished - where was it?

SANDERS: It was in the hands of his writing assistant all these years. It was a never before known original children's book manuscript by Dr. Seuss with his hand doodles, hand drawn characters playing tennis, sitting in a chair, with great Dr. Seuss rhymes that you would only expect from Dr. Seuss.

MONTAGNE: Well, I'm going to ask you about the rhymes in a moment. But I'm looking at some of the illustrations, and they are quite primitive. And Theodor Geisel was his own illustrator. This would be very early versions of something that could have been quite polished at some point.

SANDERS: Yeah, definitely. It was a very rough draft that he did. But it never got published and wasn't really available or known until right now.

MONTAGNE: Now, why didn't it get published? You'd think that he would've finished it and, you know, put it out there.

SANDERS: He did not like it. And, in fact, he called the main character a schnook.

MONTAGNE: A schnook.

Well, maybe tell us, quickly, who the main character is.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SANDERS: Well, the main character was a boy, Pete, who had trouble playing sports. It's basically about seven pages and it's a quick read.

INSKEEP: Shall I play checkers? Golf? Croquet? There are so many games, there are, to play. A hundred games in sports you can play. You can play checkers. You can play chess. Baseball. Football. Volleyball. Basketball.

And on and on and on. And then Dr. Seuss seems to finish off - maybe having enough with his idea of the book, he keeps writing, I could blumf. Or blumf, blumf, blumf, blumf, blumf. Or blumf. Or blumf, blumf, blumf, blumf, blumf.

And that's how it ends, for his part, until the assistant took over.

MONTAGNE: So let's get one thing straight. Dr. Seuss's writing assistant actually, at some point, took over the manuscript and actually starting adding to it. And there's a letter that speaks to that that Dr. Seuss wrote to her, that is also being auctioned off with the manuscript. Tell us about that letter.

SANDERS: OK. The date of the letter is July 11th, 1983. And he writes:

In part what, in my opinion, is wrong with this story, is that despite the greatness of Pete as a stellar athlete hero, the negative imagine of him flubbing and unable to catch any ball at will, will make him a schnook.

And I think the reader's reaction will be, what's the matter with this dope. I may be wrong, of course. So why not send it to Harper & Row, who have several times have made bestsellers out of properties that I've rejected.

MONTAGNE: So he was willing to have it published?

SANDERS: Kind of. Yeah. He's kind of pushing it away on her to take it from here.

MONTAGNE: Last we checked, the auction was at $21,000. And it closes later today. Do you have any sense of what it's going to end up going for, this manuscript?

SANDERS: I don't know. I can't put a price on it. There's no price guide for a one of a kind manuscript. But $21,000 seems like, you know, a good price for now.

MONTAGNE: Is there enough here to publish as a book?

SANDERS: As far as Dr. Seuss's seven pages where he wrote and doodled, it would not be enough. It would just be a beginning of a book.

MONTAGNE: Did you read Dr. Seuss as a kid?

SANDERS: I did read Dr. Seuss as a kid, and I'm a big fan of Dr. Seuss. To transcribe this manuscript, to read the content of the letter, you know, it was a total joy.

MONTAGNE: Nate D. Sanders is owner of the auction house in Los Angeles that's auctioning, online, a never published manuscript by Theodor Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss.

Thanks very much for joining us.

Mr. SANDERS. Great. Well, thank you for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MONTAGNE: This is NPR News.

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